Everton are pioneers of club football. Many of the facets of the beautiful game which we take for granted today were innovations by the Goodison Park institution, who rank among the most successful in British football. As well as spending more seasons in the top flight in England than any other club, the oldest team in the city of Liverpool have amassed more points in the highest division than the likes of Chelsea, both Manchester clubs and Tottenham Hotspur.
*Birth of an institution *In 1871, the inaugural year of the FA Cup, a church was opened for worship in the district of Everton, three miles north-east of Liverpool, called Saint Domingo’s. Six years later, the new minister Ben Swift Chambers, eager to channel the sporting enthusiasm of his congregation, established a cricket club. To keep the youngsters occupied during the winter months, the increasingly popular sport of football was given a chance by the Reverend Chambers and church organist George Mahon, with matches arranged against local church sides on Stanley Park, the strip of land which separates the existing Goodison Park and Anfield stadiums. Very quickly, the popularity of the team grew, attracting many players and supporters who did not belong to the church. Therefore in November 1879, the old title of ‘Saint Domingo’s’ was discarded and the name of the district where the church was situated, Everton, was adopted. Just a few days before Christmas of that year, Everton played their first game against St Peter’s, winning by six goals to nil and beginning a sequence of events that would lead to fame, glory and worldwide renown.
*The making of a legend *Everton won their first trophy, the Liverpool Cup in 1884, playing at their new ground at Priory Road. Yet with the club rapidly growing in popularity, another move was necessary. A plot of land – Anfield – was available at the time and it was here that the club became founder members of the Football League in 1888 and won their first league championship in the 1890/91 season. The season saw the introduction of penalty kicks and goal nets, the latter invented by Evertonian J.A. Brodie, an engineer to the city of Liverpool.
Everton’s tenancy at Anfield caused a split which led to Merseyside becoming the country’s most successful footballing city. John Houlding, the leaseholder of Anfield, purchased the ground outright and proposed to increase Everton’s rent from £100 to £250 a year. The Everton board objected, left Anfield and moved to Goodison Park.
Meanwhile, with an empty ground at Anfield, Houlding decided to establish his own football club and in 1892, Liverpool was born. The original name was to be Everton and Athletic Grounds Ltd, or Everton Athletic for short, but this was later changed to Liverpool at the request of the FA. The city had two clubs, thus beginning the rivalry which still exists today.
Further success followed. The club won the FA Cup for the first time in 1906, beating Newcastle United 1-0. Three years later, together with Tottenham Hotspur, they became the first club to embark upon an intercontinental tour. Yet, for all the history-making that Everton have done over the years, the fates have served to conspire against them. The club’s celebrated championship-winning sides of 1914/15 and 1938/39 were broken up due to the commencement of the two World Wars, while Howard Kendall’s team of the mid-80s, which won two league titles, an FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, was denied an international platform by the European ban on English clubs in the wake of the Heysel Stadium disaster.
Frustrated by the lack of continental football, several of Everton’s best players, as well as inspirational manager Howard Kendall, departed the club, which has since failed to produce another golden era since the ban was lifted in 1990.
Traditionally, Everton have won trophies with style. Back in 1928, the England striker Steve Bloomer said: “Everton worship at the school of craft and science. They always manage to serve up football of the highest scientific order.” From then on, Goodison Park became known as the ‘school of science’ with every outstanding Everton team dedicated to playing football of the highest quality, with the club’s motto of Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (Nothing but the best is good enough) serving as a reminder of the high expectation of the club’s fans.
Perhaps the one player who best epitomised these values was William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean, the legendary centre forward who scored 60 league goals in 39 appearances during the 1927/28 season, which is still a record. Dean also holds the distinction of being the world’s first No9, wearing the shirt when numbers were first introduced at the 1933 FA Cup Final, which Everton (wearing 1-11) won, defeating Manchester City (who wore 12-22) by three goals to nil.
Following a slump after the Second World War, which brought relegation, Everton began to get into the swing again as Beatlemania swept the world, with a young Paul McCartney visiting Goodison with his family. Fine players such as Alex Young, Brian Labone and Gordon West claimed two league titles in 1962/63 and 1969/70, as well as an FA Cup success in 1966 in one of the most dramatic finals Wembley has ever witnessed, Everton recovering from 2-0 down after 57 minutes to beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2.
*The present *Any talk of Everton’s present must begin with the appointment of David Moyes in March 2002. Inheriting a side seemingly destined for relegation, he achieved his first objective by keeping the club in the Premier League before embarking upon a period of rebuilding. Under Moyes, Everton have established themselves as a top-eight side, regularly qualifying for Europe and reaching the final preliminary stage of the 2005/6 UEFA Champions League after finishing fourth in the Premier League in the previous season. Now the division’s third-longest serving manager, behind Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, Moyes has been named Manager of the Year twice, but has yet to pick up silverware during his time at Goodison, with an FA Cup Final appearance in 2009 the closest his team have come.
*The stadium *Goodison Park holds the distinction of being the first-ever purpose-built football stadium, opened by the then President of the FA Lord Kinnaird in August 1892. It graduated to being the first club ground in the country to stage an FA Cup Final (in 1894), the first four-sided stadium with two tier stands and the first with a three-tier stand when the current Main Stand was completed in 1970. Everton were also the first English club to install dugouts, undersoil heating and a scoreboard. The tradition of producing and selling matchday programmes also began with Everton. Goodison Park is also the only club ground in England to host a FIFA World Cup semi-final (West Germany-Soviet Union) in 1966 during a tournament that also witnessed Pele and Eusebio grace the hallowed turf. As Evertonians sing at the stadium today: ‘If you know your history – it’s enough to make your heart go!’